Splenectomy is surgery to remove the spleen. The spleen gets rid of old and damaged red blood cells. Red blood cells may be damaged by a health condition, such as thalassemia or sickle cell disease. When the blood cells pass through the spleen, they are often destroyed. This can leave the body with too few red blood cells.
Some people have their spleen removed to keep from losing too many red blood cells. Other people may need to have it removed if the spleen is injured in a car accident or by another trauma.
The spleen helps the body fight certain types of bacteria. If your spleen is removed, your body will be less able to fight serious infections. So your doctor will suggest that you have:
- Vaccines. The pneumococcal, meningococcal, and Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) vaccines will help prevent serious infections, such as pneumonia. If you know in advance that you will have your spleen removed, plan to get these vaccines 2 weeks before your surgery. If you have your spleen removed after a trauma, you can have the vaccines as soon after surgery as your doctor recommends. For more information, see Immunizations.
- Antibiotics. Many people who have their spleen removed take antibiotics for a while. They also may need to take antibiotics whenever they have a fever, which could be a sign of a serious bacterial infection. Talk to your doctor about what to do if you have a fever.